KIGOMA, Uvinza UVINZA District Council has recorded remarkable achievements in palm oil farming after the area authority decided to put more efforts in the production of the strategic crop and creation of a website, which helped a lot to connect the farmers and investors to the opportunity.
The website was created through collaboration between the USAID Public Sector Systems Strengthening Plus (PS3+) activity and the President’s Office, Regional Administration and Local Government (PORALG).
The USAID PS3+ is a five-year project funded by the US government and implemented through the USAID with support from the US President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR).
The project’s overall objective is to strengthen government systems at both national and local levels to improve the access, use, and quality of service deliveries across agriculture, education, health, and other sectors, with a major focus on support for underserved population. Investment in palm oil production has not only raised the living standards of those participating directly in the farming, but also unlocked new business opportunities and fostered overall prosperity for others living in Uvinza.
Prior to the development of the websites, Local Government Authorities (LGAs), such as Uvinza District Council, lacked an efficient way to disseminate information to citizens.
In Uvinza, district staff relied on making announcements at Mosques and Churches, using loudspeakers to broadcast messages through busy streets, and posting flyers on public bulletin boards.
Following the achievements, the government through Tanzania Investment Centre (TIC) has decided to allocate land for palm oil cultivation in Uvinza, Kigoma Region.
The government is currently inviting investors on long term lease to invest in the allocated land.
Commenting on PS3+ contribution in getting investors, Uvinza District Council Communication Manager, Winfrida Bwire said her office uses the website to make various announcements including administrative, tenders, employment, and investment opportunities.
She said that the PS3+ in collaboration with PORALG developed regional and local government websites through the provision of technical support to Information Technology Officers (ICTOs) and Information Officers (IOs) so that they can design and develop websites for all regional administrative units and LGAs among them Uvinza District Council.
Ms Bwire said, after improving the websites, PS3+ provided technical support on how the district could use the website to post important information such as council budget, plans, strategies, tenders, investment, and employment opportunities.
“We express our gratitude to PS3+ project because it has been making regular follow ups on how we operate the website and advise for improvement whenever necessary… the project has helped a lot to facilitate timely dissemination of information to more people,” she said.
She said previously, the council used notice boards, drums, and Mosques to announce various opportunities available in the council, but it could not reach many people.
Ms Bwire said in March 2021 the council used the website to announce investments in palm oil farming and received an overwhelming response because the number of people who visited the website increased.
She said before the announcement a total of 15,000 people only visited the website, but to date more than 49,000 people from within and outside the country use the website to get various information.
Ms Bwire said that between 100 and 150 people visit the website per day and when they announced any opportunity more people visit the platform.
“After announcing investment in palm oil many people applied to get land for cultivating the strategic crop and the number of investors has increased in the district,” she said.
She said they used the website to announce names of those who got land and they were handed over the farms.
” To date people from within and outside the country have continued to apply for land so that they can invest in palm oil farming … we have linked this website with all social medial platforms so that people can be served easily,” she said.
One of the investors who got the opportunity through the website, Mr. Anania Damas who resides at Kasulu Urban said she saw the announcement in WhatsApp groups.
He said after getting the information about palm oil investment he shared it with his friend, who resides in Kigoma Town, but he has farms in Uvinza and admitted that he has also seen the announcement.
Mr. Damas said that he had the idea that palm oil farming was an appropriate area to invest, noting that before taking any action he visited the council website to verify the information.
“Application forms were also available on the website thus making it easier to access them; we were required to return the forms after filling them to the council and thereafter make payments.
Damas said that one of the advantages of using the website is that it reaches many people and increases transparency and accountability.
According to him in the past such announcements were posted on notice boards thus only a few people could get the information and the process was not transparent.
“Website is one of the simplest ways of reaching many people contrary to the traditional ways… through website you get credible information because you can access the information by yourself contrary to information received from other people,” Damian said.
” Palm oil is one of the crops which I had been dreaming of investing in, since the country’s edible oil sector is facing numerous challenges,” he said.
Damas said that he tried to invest in sunflowers and groundnuts, but he was not satisfied without investing in palm oil.
According to him palm oil is a long-term crop but there are other products which can be obtained through the cultivation of the crop.
” If you invest in palm oil farming means you are addressing the challenge of edible oil in the country at the same time getting other produce which could be sold,” he said.
“Through the announcement regarding the opportunities of investing in palm oil, it stated that investors will be assisted to secure title deeds of their farms which is a motivation and huge opportunity for the investor,” Mr. Damas said.
The Council’s Agricultural Engineer, Salum Masolwa said palm oil is a strategic project which aims at boosting production of edible oil within the district and the country at large.
The project also intends to save a lot of funds which are being used to import edible oil from the country.
He said after the Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa directed palm oil to be the strategic crop with several investment opportunities they prepared a proposal on the opportunity.
Masolwa said that they decided to focus on the website to enable people who get information through various media to have reliable sources of information.
He said the advert was for Tanzanians and those outside the country and if a person was interested, he was required to visit the website to get an application form.
” Nowadays many people do not go to the noticeboard if they heard of any opportunity, they go straight to the government websites to get reliable information… the improvement brought by PS3+ in our websites has brought great changes in our council,” he said.
“When we put this advert a total of 184 people visited the website within a short time because it was linked to other social media,” he said.
According to him the palm oil project has been divided into two groups which are small scale investors who are individual farmers owning between five and 25 acres and large-scale investors who own 500 acres.
He said besides cultivating palm oil, the investor has plans to construct a factory for processing palm oil and other produces associated with the crop.
” This area has a total of 800 acres of which 402 acres have been prepared through the cost covered by farmers,” he said.
Masolwa further said that there are steps which the investor is supposed to follow to be provided with the guideline.
The aim is to connect farmers at the preliminary stages so that they can have a cooperative society in the area to easy coordination and access other opportunities such as loans.
He further said that they intend to install irrigation infrastructures which will be under the management of the cooperative society.
Uvinza Council Treasurer Majidi Mabanga said the council has various strategies for acquiring new sources of revenue which is among the government priorities.
He said they have various sources of income but the council decided to look for another sources from palm oil in order to boost revenue collection.
Mabanga said the aim of PS3+ is to improve public systems to increase efficiency and accountability to the citizens thus through the website they have managed to increase revenue sources in Uvinza Council.
Records show that the country’s current demand for edible oil stands at 650,000 tonnes annually while production capacity is estimated at only 290,000 tons, meaning there is a deficit of 360,000 tonnes which are being imported.
To address the shortage the government has been encouraging farmers and other investors to direct efforts in palm oil farming among others to boost the country’s edible oil production.